Strengthening Malaysia-Brazil Ties through Industrial Collaboration

Between 19 and 24 May, I led an official mission to Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro. As I walked out from the Brasilia airport, the signage said “the time has come for Brazil.” Indeed, the global limelight is on Brazil as it hosts G20 in 2024, and presides over the 30th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP30) and BRICS in 2025.

Brazil is currently one of the world’s most consequential middle powers, at a time when great powers are in seemingly uncompromising rivalries. The middle powers from the Global South must not be bystanders, instead should work closely with each other to devise practical solutions to improve the wellbeing of our people, and to preserve global peace.

Malaysia established diplomatic relations with Brazil in 1959, merely two years after our independence. Brazil was the first country from South America that we established a diplomatic relationship with.

In 2024, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Brazil will have the 8th largest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world and the 8th largest purchasing power parity in the world as well. Brazil is the 7th most populous country in the world with a rising middle class. 

I visited the offices of Petronas and Yinson in Rio de Janeiro. Both companies have each invested more than USD 3 billion in Brazil. As we heard today, Sapura also has a presence in Brazil.

As a fellow middle income developing nation, Brazil has a rigorous regulatory framework to ensure transparency for investors while mandating foreign investors to contribute to domestic R&D. It is also worth noting that Brazil imposes a R&D Levy on oil producers, where 1% of their gross revenue should be channelled to research and development initiatives.

Malaysia will be the Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2025. One suggestion that Brazil as the Chair of G20 may want to consider taking up is to admit ASEAN as a Member of G20. The European Union has joined G20 since its Summit in November 2008 and the African Union was admitted into G20 during India’s chairmanship in 2023. ASEAN as an important region and a growing economy has a lot to contribute to the global conversation at G20.

In 2023, beyond the United States, China and Europe, Brazil’s exports to ASEAN exceeded those it sent to other partners and regions, such as MERCOSUR (US$ 23.5 billion), the Middle East (US$ 14.9 billion) or the entire African continent (US$ 13.2 billion). Brazil’s bilateral trade with individual ASEAN member states is higher than that with some of Brazil’s most traditional partners. Brazilian exports to Singapore are bigger in value than the ones to Germany, Japan or South Korea; exports to Malaysia exceed those to Italy or to the United Kingdom; and exports to Vietnam surpass the ones to France.

Both Brazil and Malaysia are respected important opinion leaders in the Global South and our voices on the international stage are loud and clear. Our two nations’ principled stance against Israeli atrocities in Gaza is a case in point. 

Our two nations are pursuing renewal in industrialisation and the economy as a whole. Malaysia launched the New Industrial Master Plan 2030 in September last year while Brazil launched Nova Indústria Brasil 2033 (New Industry Brazil 2033) plan in January 2024. Both are ambitious plans which stress upon the role of the government in promoting sustainable and dynamic industrialisation.

Semiconductors, which many consider the new oil, is at the forefront of the industrialisation plans of Malaysia and Brazil.

In October last year, I addressed a virtual dialogue between Malaysian and Brazilian semiconductor companies. On 27 May, I met the Brazilian semiconductor leaders who were in Kuala Lumpur to attend the Semicon Southeast Asia meeting. In fact, cooperation on semiconductor development was one of the key highlights of the phone call between President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on 9 February.

Both our leaders had also discussed many other subjects during their phone call, including cooperation on climate action, renewable energy, green transition and trade, which hopefully get a new sense of vigour with major upgrade and enhancement when Prime Minister Anwar visits Brazil in November this year at the invitation of the government of Brazil.

Malaysia and Brazil as important thought leaders in the Global South, the potential renewal our two nations try to effect on industrialisation and the economy as a whole, and our collaboration in the oil and gas industry – the theme of today’s discussion – all point to the further strengthening of the relations between Brazil and Malaysia though our multifaceted cooperation and collaboration.

Muito obrigado!

This is my speech delivered at the Brazil-Malaysia Energy and Investment Forum on July 10, 2024.

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